"Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome."
-- Arthur Ashe, tennis champion and AIDS spokesperson.
By most standards I am a successful individual. I have had a fairly successful career, although that is hard to measure when one looks at the ministry. I undertook and gained three different college degrees and am certified in two of the three professions. (One week of student teaching and I KNEW I would not certify in that first degree!) And over the course of the past 20 years or so I have served on community boards and agencies in each of the communities in which I have lived. I have enjoyed life and getting to know and help people.
With each accomplishment came some memento to hang on the wall of my office or study - a diploma or an award plaque of some kind. Sometimes I look at each of those and think back over the path I have chosen or over which I have been led for these 40-some-odd-years. At this point there are some moments of sadness or mild regret and some times of pure happiness. For the most part I can see how each of these mementos represents a turning point for me as I continued on the journey of life.
Perhaps what is beginning to mean the most of all of these accomplishments is not the actual end result, the degree, promotion or award. Yes, those mean a lot because we all want to be able to measure our success and those things measure the success in traditional and public ways. But the greater understanding for me is who I am becoming in the process of making this journey through life. In the middle of my success I somehow lost the point that the destination is not the main thing. It is the journey itself that we are about on a day-to-day basis.
This winter I took on a challenge to walk 60 miles in three days to raise funds for breast-cancer awareness, research and treatment programs. To be honest, I have taken on too much of a challenge. But since early spring I have been pounding the pavement and stalking the trails of Juneau. Step by step I begin to see something new each day. I see the beauty of nature. I see some of the same people each day out doing the same thing, one step at a time. And I have had a lot of time to think about almost everything. Often I come to a juncture in the road where I could make a turn to the right and head home, shortening my journey. Or I could make the left-hand turn and go a few more miles before turning around and coming home. My mantra that keeps me going has become, "It is not about turning around and going back home."
Each of us has the opportunity every day to choose to keep moving on toward the next step, the next milestone, the next adventure or the next phase of our lives. It is easier sometimes to turn around and go home, back to that place where we are comfortable and not often challenged. The life that we are called to lead is not one of turning back or giving up. Nor is it one of resting on our successes and allowing ourselves to think that we have "made it." The life God calls us to lead is one of pursuing the journey of life, measuring it step by step. Often we will stumble and sometimes we will fall flat on our faces. Occasionally we will have great successes and after many miles we will be granted a night of sweet rest. No matter where life takes us, however, we cannot accept the place where we find ourselves today. Success and degrees and awards will never take the place of continuing on the journey set before us. For, indeed, the journey - along with the people we will meet and touch and the places we will go to and leave changed for the better - is the true measure of who we are and who we shall be.
So for now, keep walking.
Kim Poole is a minister at the Jubilee Community United Church and has lived in Juneau for eight years.